By Karl Rudman, Business Development Manager, Petro-Canada Europe Lubricants

The fleet sector’s effective use of technology is now common practice, with managers using software to track their vehicles and keep their drivers safe using collision mitigation systems. There are, however, further efficiencies that can be obtained using data these systems offer to make managing fleets more profitable.

Getting connected

There is a wealth of data tracking in everything we do and the decisions that we make because of the integration of connected devices in both our personal and professional activities. Over the past twenty years with the impact and evolution of technology and data, the heavy-duty fleet industry has moved from being largely manual to one supported by the adoption and integration of technology.

Real time access to hardware sensors fitted to trucks provides fleet managers with instant tracking that can pinpoint fleet vehicles on live maps. Not only does this provide live data for managers, but it also helps alleviate the workload for drivers by reducing the reliance on driver reports for detailed vehicle information. Increasingly connected, fleet managers can also receive notifications when a vehicle passes a certain mileage limit and if a driver has spent considerable time stationary or idling, providing unprecedent data and insight into the vehicle’s condition and location.

This makes it substantially easier to report on the hours of service of the vehicle and driver as well as highlight the safest drivers. This means managers can promote greater risk mitigation and help ensure the well-being and safety of their team by offering efficient driving advice. In turn, this can also reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs on more consumable items such as brakes and tires.

Now able to provide data on numerous aspects of a truck, including acceleration, speed and idle time, monitoring systems are rapidly advancing. Adopting these technologies, fleet managers can take a data-led approach to find efficiencies and maximise profits. For example, data can help fleet managers more accurately forecast fuel usage and therefore help inform planning and purchasing decisions.

True automation of the sector is considered many years away, meaning there is no replacement for skilled drivers or maintenance staff; but it is possible to leverage the data that is easily accessible to fleets to help create better maintenance schedules.

Informed decision making

By using existing data to help identify and monitor trends, the fleet sector can expect to see improvements in both efficiency and profit. To identify trends, used oil analysis data can be used alongside fleet management information. These can help establish reasons behind changes in used oil analysis data as well as predict the need for an earlier change, dependant on the vehicle’s acceleration, breaking or idle time.

To aid this data use, it is also important that drivers continue to monitor their vehicle and record any significant changes. For example, if oil top-offs become more frequent between oil drain intervals but are not highlighted ahead of the used oil analysis, the report may not be accurate. To help ensure accurate results, the oil top-offs should be logged and a heavy-duty, low volatility oil carefully chosen, such as DURON™, and any fluctuations in oil consumption shared with fleet managers so that data analysis can take this into consideration.

The use of used oil analysis results together with fleet management data also allows additional factors such as driver style or the frequency of stop/starts to be considered and optimised to help determine if oil drain intervals could be extended*. It is vital to note however, that operators should only make alterations to oil drain intervals after carefully considering Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. Deviations from its guidance could void warranty coverage and result in expensive repair costs.

To push the boundaries of fleet efficiencies, managers should bring together all the data available to them to help gain a holistic overview of quantitative trends that can be identified and optimised to produce cost savings.

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* Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program